Center for Post Carbon Logistics NYC Blue Highways RFEI Response

As a result of the Center’s mission and the recent RFEI from New York City regarding Maritime transport, it is appropriate that the Center respond with a statement of how our efforts already support these objectives, and how the City can meet or exceed their goals by looking outside their own borders. A focus on Regional Marine Services as defined in the RFEI will do the most to meet the City’s goal of using marine highways, cycle-trucks, and a working waterfront to tackle roadway congestion, improve safety, and reduce the ecological impact of the City’s economy. The response is available here.


The causes and consequences of climate change are well understood and described in great detail elsewhere, therefore this document will not focus on these effects and threats as such. The context of this response reflects a larger systems view of regional marine services and the potential for marine movement of goods and people; one which looks at more than the trucks coming into the NYC roadways, but those simply passing through as well. The City’s objectives are unlikely to be met by simply working within its own borders, due to the geography involved. The City reaching outside its own borders to improve life in the metro area is not novel: The preservation of farm and other conservation land in the Catskills in order to protect the City’s water supply is a prime example of this type of extra-mural work which the City has engaged in for over a century.

The costs of overcrowded roadways are extremely high, as acknowledged in the RFEI. By diverting as much trade as possible off the roadways and onto the water, these costs can be significantly reduced. As New York has some of the most congested roadways in the United States, it is imperative to relieve this pressure. Any reduction in truck miles traveled reduces emissions as well as congestion, and reduced congestion leads to reduced emissions per vehicle.

For example, reducing truck miles and emissions in the New York Metro Area (NYMA) hinges on a significant geographical junction which sits in the middle of the NYMA: Long Island is only accessible by roads going through New York City, via the Queens Expressway Bridge from the North or East, or across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from the West and South. By creating and subsidizing the use of coastal trade from New Jersey to ports along the shores of Long Island, a significant amount of trucking miles could be avoided on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, while a series of ferries from Southern New England and the Hudson Valley to Long Island would similarly reduce truck traffic on New York’s highways. Connections between Boston and Philadelphia on sailing container vessels could remove hundreds of trucks per day, as could similar zero-emissions coastal services which bring trade around, as opposed to through, the city’s highways and bridges.

Even to allow for deliveries within the City’s boundaries, outer-ring hubs for modal shift should be encouraged in the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The farther out the cargo switches, the lower the roadway congestion will be and the lower the climate forcing emissions. This will also reduce congestion at the peripheries of the city, allowing for freer movement and higher air quality for all the Metro Area’s citizens, particularly in disadvantaged areas. The more points of embarkation for cargo outside the city, the more resilient and emissions efficient the entire system will be.

By expanding the available pool of ports which might be used for freight trans-shipping the overall impact on New York’s roadway congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and quality of life can be enhanced. While initial constructions may be sited in close proximity to the City, creating an expanding network over the next few years is an economically beneficial plan which can alleviate the significant problems the City is now facing. In cooperation with State-Level initiatives to revitalize the New York State Canal System, full-length maritime connections can be restored to the Champlain Valley, Central and Western New York, and the Great Lakes, creating amplified benefits to the state as a whole.

One of the greatest advantages of this plan of action is that it can be implemented immediately and with little investment or administrative overhead: Simply creating a program to pay for trucks to travel free-to-operator on a number of existing ferries will immediately divert traffic as this is advertised. This increase in business for ferry companies will create an incentive to increase their capacity on existing routes. As the success of such a pilot program grows, other routes and ports can be deployed and put into service. With a coherent regional plan to create mutual advantage, a large-scale maritime sector can be revived in the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut corridor. The response is available here.

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